Party Like It’s 1932: The Obama Option

Seventy-six years ago, to many ears on the left, Franklin D. Roosevelt sounded way too much like a centrist. True, he was eloquent, and he’d generated enthusiasm in a Democratic base eager to evict Republicans from the White House. But his campaign was moderate — with policy proposals that didn’t indicate he would try to take the country in bold new directions if he won the presidency.

Yet FDR’s triumph in 1932 opened the door for progressives. After several years of hitting the Hoover administration’s immovable walls, the organizing capacities of labor and other downtrodden constituencies could have major impacts on policy decisions in Washington.

Today, segments of the corporate media have teamed up with the Clinton campaign to attack Barack Obama. Many of the rhetorical weapons used against him in recent weeks — from invocations of religious faith and guns to flag-pin lapels — may as well have been ripped from a Karl Rove playbook. The key subtexts have included racial stereotyping and hostility to a populist upsurge.

Do we have a major stake in this fight? Does it really matter whether Hillary Clinton or Obama wins the Democratic nomination? Is it very important to prevent John McCain from moving into the White House?

The answers that make sense to me are yes, yes and yes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In 1932, there were scant signs that Franklin Delano Roosevelt might become a progressive president. By the summer of that election year, when he accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, his “only left-wing statements had been exceedingly vague,” according to FDR biographer Frank Freidel.

Just weeks before the 1932 general election, Roosevelt laid out a plan for mandated state unemployment insurance nationwide along with social welfare. Even then, he insisted on remaining what we now call a fiscal conservative. “Obviously he had not faced up to the magnitude of expenditure that his program would involve,” Freidel recounts. “Obviously too, he had not in the slightest accepted the views of those who felt that the way out of the Depression was large-scale public spending and deficit financing.”

Six days later, on October 19, FDR delivered a speech in Pittsburgh that blasted the federal budget for its “reckless and extravagant” spending. He pledged “to reduce the cost of current federal government operations by 25 percent.” And he proclaimed: “I regard reduction in federal spending as one of the most important issues of this campaign.” If he’d stuck to such positions, the New Deal would never have happened.

As the fall campaign came to a close, the Nation magazine lamented that “neither of the two great parties, in the midst of the worst depression in our history, has had the intelligence or courage to propose a single fundamental measure that might conceivably put us on the road to recovery.” Looking back on the 1932 campaign, Freidel was to comment: “Indeed, in many respects, for all the clash and clamor, Roosevelt and President Hoover had not differed greatly from each other.”

The Socialist Party’s Norman Thomas, running for president again that year, had a strong basis for his critique of both major-party candidates in 1932. But in later elections, when Thomas ran yet again, many former supporters found enough to admire in FDR’s presidency to switch over and support the incumbent for re-election.

“The Roosevelt reforms went far beyond previous legislation,” historian Howard Zinn has written. Those reforms were not only a response to a crisis in the system. They also met a need “to head off the alarming growth of spontaneous rebellion in the early years of the Roosevelt administration — organization of tenants and the unemployed, movements of self-help, general strikes in several cities.”

Major progressive successes under the New Deal happened in sync with stellar achievements in grassroots organizing. So, in Zinn’s words, “Where organized labor was strong, Roosevelt moved to make some concessions to working people.” The New Deal was not all it could have been, no doubt, but to a large extent it was a stupendous result of historic synergies — made possible by massive pressure from the grassroots and a president often willing to respond in the affirmative.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Support of a candidate does not — or at least should not — mean silence about disagreement. There shouldn’t be any abatement of advocacy for progressive positions, whether opposition to nuclear power plants, insistence on complete withdrawal of the U.S. military and mercenaries from Iraq, or activism for a universal single-payer healthcare system.

For good reasons, Obama doesn’t say “I am the one we’ve been waiting for.” He says in speech after speech: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Whether that ends up being largely rhetoric or profoundly real depends not on him nearly so much as on us.

A crucial task between now and November is to get Obama elected as president while shifting the congressional mix toward a progressive majority. Next year will bring the imperative of organizing to exert powerful pressure from the base for progressive change.

At a recent caucus in California’s 6th congressional district, I was elected as an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention. It’s clear to me that Obama is now the best choice among those with a chance to become the next president.

Barack Obama has the potential to become as great a president as Franklin Roosevelt — while social and political movements in the United States have the potential to become as great as those that made the New Deal possible. I seriously doubt that Hillary Clinton has such potential. And John McCain offers only more of the kind of horrific presidency that the world has endured for the last 87 months.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He writes the Political Culture 2013 column. Read other articles by Norman, or visit Norman's website.

34 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. TS Draegeth said on April 22nd, 2008 at 11:53am #

    Once upon a time, someone who didn’t seem like he was going to be good turned out to be good. Therefore, this time, someone who doesn’t seem like he is going to be good will be good?

    I believe the appropriate lingo for this forum is: wtf?

    This is absurd. Obama is threatening to attack Iran, continue attacking Iraq, and, well, another million or so things that are business is usual.

    Of course, maybe the point is appropriate, considering that FDR played Europe off through WW2 into the Marshall Plan, joined hands with Stalin, etc. Do we want another FDR? Do we want another World War II? Probably, but I wish that weren’t the case. A few pseudo-progressive job programs, that represent the barest attempt to share a sliver of the capitalist pie with the starving masses in order to stave off revolution, does not make up for World War II. Maybe you’re right, and Obama’s friendly-faced capitalism and WW3 is exactly what we’ll get.

  2. Jerry D. Rose said on April 22nd, 2008 at 12:29pm #

    Since this article is cross-posted from Common
    Dreams (and since cross-posting in not yet unconstitutional, even in Florida), I’ll do my own cross-post of my comment on a CD article today in which the author says that Obama’s remark about “bitter” rural folks reflects some understandable bitterness of many voters:

    I’m plenty bitter too. Bitter that most of my former party, the Democratic Party, is about to choose as its nominee a person who (borrowing from Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report):
    1. Has been selected by Wall Street as its next puppet to head the U.S. government.
    2. Has (under Oprah’s flag) been inducted into the celebrity world of an “American Idol.”
    3. Is the recipient of the subliminal racism of white Americans who would dearly love to vote for a black man (who doesn’t even sound like a black man and distances himself from “radical” blacks like Wright) to prove to themselves that they are not prejudiced against blacks.
    4. Is the recipient of the understandable yearning of black Americans to have one of themselves “in charge” for a change after a prolonged history of slavery and then having to sit in the back of the bus.
    5. And all this because the “alternative” (Clinton) is just as weakly qualified as himself to be President.

    Yeah, I’m bitter and bitter finally because the media, both mainstream and “alternative” progressive outlets like Common Dreams, AlterNet, Znet, and The Nation are sucked into this same mind-numbing syndrome; in the latter case, because progressives like Norman Solomon give us the untenable hypothesis that, if progressives will only support Obama and put “pressure” on him to be what we want him to be, he’ll somehow emerge as more liberal than he appears to be (Didn’t it happen in 32 with FDR?).
    And T.S. Draegeth is right, what we may well get with Obama is the same as we may get with Clinton or McCain: World War III. Only difference is, with Obama we may get ourselves a nice dose of “hope and change” to go along with with world’s incineration.

  3. kathy m said on April 22nd, 2008 at 12:58pm #

    In agreement with the above comments, and in addition-
    The analogy between FDR and Obama as it is used to serve the progressive fantasy (delusion) that Obama-support constitutes a “movement” is so specious, it is mind-numbing–particularly in its hypnotic reiteration. Solomon, like all the others reciting the same thing, manage to at once recognize and ignore a not so minor detail of distinction between the two historical periods., namely what is revealed in the Zinn quote regarding “the Roosevelt reforms”: Those reforms were not only a response to a crisis in the system. They also met a need “to head off the alarming growth of spontaneous rebellion in the early years of the Roosevelt administration — organization of tenants and the unemployed, movements of self-help, general strikes in several cities.”
    Where pray tell is there anything comparable in the current moment to the growth of rebellions, existing level of organization in labor, strikes, etc.. in today’s (de)politicized climate? The analogy is based on an absolutely specious premise–that there is a similar political climate today. Yet, there is not, therefore the argument that Obama will be pushed in a progressive direction by progressive forces is patently absurd. pushed(by What? by whom?? the supporters of Obama? oh, but what makes them progressive? they are supporting Obama? and he is potentially progressive because they are supporting him… Welcome to one-dimensionality land–

  4. TS Draegeth said on April 22nd, 2008 at 1:07pm #

    I’m undecided on whether Obama or Hillary is the more dangerous candidate. Hillary is cold-blooded and venomous, but Obama is more deceptively friendly while his goons rifle through your house. Which is worse? Hillary is guilty of worse behavior on the campaign trail, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Obama’s policies wouldn’t be the worst of the two once he was elected and screwing with a smile.

  5. CLEDUC said on April 22nd, 2008 at 1:21pm #

    “Obama is threatening to attack Iran, continue attacking Iraq, and, well, another million or so things that are business is usual. ” Jerry D. Rose

    Hillary said today that she would ‘obliterate Iran’ if they attacked Israel. During the debate she also talked about providing a defence umbrella for a number of Arab nations if they were attacked.

    John McCain, with his temper, is itching to attack a terrorist somewhere.

    Obama is the guy who didn’t want a war with Iraq in the first place while Clinton and McCain gave it a thumbs up.

  6. Jerry D. Rose said on April 22nd, 2008 at 2:51pm #

    CLEDUC, If you want to quote me (I’m flattered), you might try putting quotes around something I actually said.

    As to the war positions of the three candidates, Obama wasn’t in the
    Senate when the war authorization vote was taken. He, along with Clinton and McCain, took every opportunity to vote for supplementary
    funding. One of my “questions for Obama and Clinton” in the article I published on this site two days ago asked each how he/she would vote on the upcoming supplemental. The three Senators will have their chance there to put their votes where their mouths are.

  7. E. R. Bills said on April 22nd, 2008 at 2:52pm #

    Solomon just attempts to point out that there’s a decent possibility that Obama is what he says he is. His campaign is peopled by politically savvy players–it doesn’t mean they’re going to tell him what to do. It means he’s smart because he wouldn’t have got this far otherwise. he distances himself from radical black men because it’s the right play if you want to win an election. so many respondents (like Glen Ford, Draegeth, etc.) have no concept of successful politics and what it takes to win. They keep talking about Nader and McKinney. . . do us all a favor and tell us when the space shuttle lands in your back yard to cart you off to Oz. Neither will ever gain the presidency because they’re not shrewd enough to play the game. Admire Obama for attempting what most would have thought impossible just a year ago. Thank him because he’s inspired people in ways we haven’t seen in decades. Give him a chance because he’s the best chance we’ve got. So what if he doesn’t accept a reach-a-round from Tavis Smiley. So what if he doesn’t meet the Black Agenda Report’s criteria for a black political leader. Both are irrelevant compared to a shrewd Oprah spot.

    Obama is bigger than the bitches his critics have about him–I just hope they stick around to admit their folly if Obama is elected. As the first black/mixed race president, he won’t have the luxury of being a “yes” man to Wall street. He’ll have to be better than his white counterparts. He’ll have no choice but do what’s right because of who he is, where we stand as a nation and where we’re headed as a people.

  8. kathy m said on April 22nd, 2008 at 3:04pm #

    ER Bills: “Solomon just attempts to point out that there’s a decent possibility that Obama is what he says he is. ”
    That’s funny because what he says he is, according to his *supporters* like Soloman is *centrist*. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seemed to me that The whole point of Solomon’s article was, not that Obama was for real, but that we should not be too concerned about what his reality was–i.e. the actuality Obama’s explicit centrist, and fundamentally pro-empire agenda, but that *despite* Obama being what he says he is that, like FDR, he can (magically) be propelled into Progressive-dom by some completely fictive “movement”.

    In what way is Obama “bigger” than the criticisms made of him? certainly not in his own words!
    you say that Glenn Ford and company have no idea about what it takes to win. Win WHAT??
    what is your argument about *what* is going to be Won, E.R Bills? ARe you going to take the FDR analogy tack? in that case, what is your response to my points above about the *lack* or organization among the left, the absence of rebellions, as the context into which this presidency would emerge?
    Is it a better of two evils argument?: in which case, I wish the Solomons and Haydens, et al would please just stick to that , and stop trotting out this nonsense about Obama as progressive and as associated with a movement.

  9. Ron Horn said on April 22nd, 2008 at 3:27pm #

    It seems to me that people who are hoping for a born again Franklin Roosevelt do so out of some feeling of desperation. Understandable, to be sure, but their analyses fail to take into account the major differences I see between the 1930s and today. Since the 1930s the media has become owned and controlled by a relatively few people in the ruling class. This concentration of the media insures that information given to the citizens is much more easily screened, controlled, and manipulated. Consider the report in Sunday’s NYT re the Pentagon’s organized program to feed the networks their information.
    So its clear now that in addition to the obvious disinformation presented to our citizenry to get us into the war, after invading we have been systematically fed more disinformation to neutralize public opposition. Consider the security and surveillance systems that the government now has at its disposal. Consider the elaborate system of gulags which house more of its citizens on a per capita basis than any other country in the world. Consider the shredding of those parts of the Constitution that protected citizens from the government. Consider the dismantling of the labor movement under business friendly unions. Consider the infiltration of our government by Zionists with their dual loyalties. I’m sure readers can think of other odious differences.

    It will take some major shocks before we, the people, will wake up enough to begin to put serious pressure on the government. And by that time, it may very well be too late. The military-financial complex that rules this country will likely prefer to use the well developed systems of social control rather that appease a rebellious citizenry. And they likely wouldn’t tolerate another Roosevelt like figure in the President’s office.

  10. evie said on April 22nd, 2008 at 4:33pm #

    What a shameful piece of writing.

    The flip side of this could be “they” are planning acts so horrific on the world that only a black man or woman is deemed suitable to take the fall for said acts.

  11. Great moving article -- but sthg is missing: a direction said on April 22nd, 2008 at 5:35pm #


    I take it all back;) You ARE the same “evie”, right? Never mind, whatever it was I retract it:)Organizing Committee

    You hit the nail on the head: “shameful” is the word to describe this fink Solomon, who all these Editors insist on believing is some kind of “progressive” in the face of repeated evidence to the contrary.

    I think the reason must be that the fink produces quantities of highly literate professionally-written Copy, which is the lifeblood of a Periodical: sthg for the Bookworms & Typeheads to read, which is the main thing such types do, besides subscribe to this & that.

    I myself never really noticed Normy’s existence until one evening chanced to be in attendance at what was billed as a Debate between he and one Ralph Nader. NS main pt was that Nader shouldn’t run because our best bet was Anybody But Bush, i.e. either David ABB Cobb or I think at that pt the John Dean option was still on many Crawford Campout tables, shortly to morph into Kerry/Edwds, and Dean into Chairman of the DNC.

    When I first saw Dean on TV, instance reaction was Chale Ese, this vato is a COP, watch yseff, keep max distance. I mean, don’t take no Rocket Surgeon, no Marxist Geoanalysis to tell Dubya was a Kleagle from the jump, so how come so many apparently intelligent Trendy Young Folks lost all sense of reality when this Dean showed up? Got to be the same Pathology makes Editors think this Solomon character is smbdy they shld publish. Too much fer me, I give up.

    But it so ABSURD, as somebody has already observed. Same ol’ Same ol! Goes back to LBJ vs Goldwater, when Lyndon ran as the “peace candidate” vs Warmonger Barry. Turned out Barry just talked about it, LBJ got elected & did it: escalated the war in SE Asia.

    Solomon is a flak for the Status Quo, a bs artist in sheep’s clothing. Makes me wonder when I see him published on a site like this: is somebody handing out Gullibility pills? How else to explain it? I’m at a loss. Maybe somebody break it down for me? Kim?



  12. Great moving article -- but sthg is missing: a direction said on April 22nd, 2008 at 5:40pm #

    “Great moving article — but sthg is missing: a direction” is the head I put on my previous comment, which was on Dr Jensen’s article. Hope I have the orig. head for this one re Solomon saved smwhre…

    Seems your software may be playing tricks…? Let me chk, see if my comment re Jensen was published…

  13. Dogwood said on April 22nd, 2008 at 6:40pm #

    Why is this article on Dissident Voice? Have I got this site wrong? Once I saw this kind of nonsense on Common Dreams I abandoned the site. I’ve had a lot of respect for Dissident Voice. Someone tell me what’s what please.

    Some exquisite posts and an article that speaks nonsense and exposes the tragedy of our times. Since 1996 I’ve been desperately trying to understand why it is that people who are supposedly on the side of “good” and “the people”; i.e., the self-proclaimed progressives, will repeatedly vote and endorse corporate; and by so doing, will actually vote against the people, against democracy; and most astonishingly; against their own best interests and those of their children, their friends, their family, their co-workers, the environment and the world! Why do they do this? Why did they in 1996? Why now? And, why, it seems, will they never stop, no matter how horrific things get? I’ll truly never understand it. I know the given reasons: They’re actually corporate themselves – no matter what their self-perceptions – and therefore complicit. They’re afraid to stray from the clan (their Democrat buddies or bosses). They’re “scared”. They’re brain-washed by corporate media. They just don’t know what’s going on and can’t believe things are as bad as they are. They’re ultimately uninformed, don’t want to be exposed as such, and so are resistant to actually learning the facts. I’ve heard and considered them all. And still I’m at a loss. To think that from 1996 we’ve had 12 years, 12 years!!! to organize around Ralph Nader to propel this brilliant and effective man of the people to ascendancy so that we could all work in concert to insure lives of peace and dignity with our hard-won rights and liberties firmly in place – but instead, rather than Dissident Voice and all other truly progressive outlets urging, daily, that people get out there and contribute their time, energy and funds to get this man on the ballot – I have to read this nonsense….. Well, I apologize for this tiny indulgence because those of us who aren’t scared and who know that working hard for democracy, DEMOCRACY!, not pipe dreams, not candidates who are nothing but “big phonies”, as my dear dad would say – is our only chance. And we’re smart enough to no longer even try to talk to la-la land supporters of corporate candidates. It’s the people other than the 50 percent who repeatedly pull the corporate levers who are the hope and chance for this country. Those are the people signing the petitions that will get Ralph on the ballot. They’re quite a constituency to be tapped. And they’re pretty pissed off at what’s going on and they’re feeling it the most. They’re the focus. They’re the people who scare the likes of the progressive-badge-wearing corporatists. They’re the people who actually believe in democracy – and can – by good god damn – bring it back!!!

  14. Jerry D. Rose said on April 22nd, 2008 at 6:47pm #

    E.R. Bills, I love ya, man! (or is it woman)? If you didn’t exist, we who post comments here would have to invent you. I’d rather have a dialogue with Norman Solomon (whose work I have much admired) himself; but he’s a big-time media expert who’s unlikely to consort with the likes of those who post here; you have the same attitude and you’re a good enough stand in to help with what we desperately need to do, and that’ s to keep talking.

    The Solomon/Bills attitude I’m referring to is something that I’ve encountered all too often in the progressive community. During the 04 elections, many of my progressive friends fell in love with Howard Dean who, like Obama, promised hope and change without much indication of what kind of change we could hope for should he become President. He said that, if universal health care was your agenda, he was not your man, that the NRA loved him, that he’d be slow to withdraw troops from Iraq, etc. etc. Yet I heard time after time from his followers that Howard was “really” more progressive than he presented himself, that once in office he would show his true progressive colors. And this attitude persisted into the present election with Democracy for America, the offshoot of the Dean for America campaign. DFA ran an online poll of its membership which Dennis Kucinich won, then proceeded to campaign for John Edwards in a campaign in which Dennis was still involved, and then raised nary a peep that I ever heard (nor did Clinton nor Obama for that matter) when the media decided to exclude Dennis from debates with a view to improving their “quality”—with results we saw demonstrated in last week’s Philadelphia debacle.

    Before finishing my rants for this evening I want to comment on the Pennsylvania election, the results of which have just been projected as a rather narrow Clinton win. Earlier in the day I heard that something like 200,000 PA Republicans and independents had changed their registration to Democrat to vote in this primary. This, plus tonight’s early results, gave me a moment of “I told you so” from an article I wrote for this site shortly after the March 5 primaries in Ohio and Texas: that PA Republicans (and quite possibly those in IN and NC) would likely change registrations to vote for Clinton in this election to “prolong” the race to the advantage of the Republicans. I don’t know whether this happened but, if it did, wouldn’t it seriously rain on Hillary Clinton’s parade of trying to woo super-delegates by showing how she could win in a “big state”? A win yes, but one in which there was significant support from folks very unlikely to vote for her against McCain in November.

  15. evie said on April 22nd, 2008 at 7:51pm #

    I disagree with the idea that the Republicans want to run against Hillary or that the cystic gasbag Limbaugh can get republican primary voters to vote Hillary.

    Rush’s listeners are not activity oriented – it’s all hot air.

    I believe it is Obama the Republicans want McCain to run against. Hillary is one of them so they cannot unearth too much on her and Bill; hence more voters will hold their nose and vote Hillary over McCain.

    But ! Obama is full of more shit than a Xmas turkey and they’ll serve him up to where even his biggest fans won’t vote Barack.

  16. Sunil Sharma said on April 22nd, 2008 at 7:53pm #

    Posting of this article on DV does not reflect support for Obama (or any other candidate) from the editors or other DV writers (In fact, about 99% of the articles we’ve posted on Obama has been critical, e.g. the work of Josh Frank, Glen Ford, Bruce Dixon, and Evelyn Pringle among others). This article is solely the opinion of one of our long-time contributing writers. Agree with it or disagree with it and move on, but let’s not leap to conclusions about DV getting in bed with the Dems. Some folks really need to take a nice walk, breathe in some fresh air, and calm down before letting loose on the Discussion board here.

  17. evie said on April 22nd, 2008 at 7:58pm #

    On the other hand, if elections are “rigged” – it’s all moot. We’ll get who they give us.

  18. Josh Miles said on April 22nd, 2008 at 8:18pm #

    Another “progressive” drinks a cup of Obama’s Kool-Aid. This is a shameful, albeit typical piece by Solomon. In 2004, he caught the “anybody but Bush” disease, causing the supposedly anti-war “progressive” to urge people to vote for the VERY pro-war John Kerry rather than the genuinely anti-war, anti-imperialist Ralph Nader.

  19. Garrett said on April 22nd, 2008 at 9:00pm #

    “Neither will ever gain the presidency because they’re not shrewd enough to play the game.”

    It’s a primary. The current administration is incredibly unpopular. Poll after poll suggest that a clear majority of Americans are starving for a truly progressive leader. There’s no need to “play the game.”

    What we need is for Obama and/or Clinton to stand up to the Corporatocracy. Since it’s clear that both are sellouts, I have no choice but to vote for someone I can actually respect…even if she (McKinney) can’t win.

  20. hp said on April 22nd, 2008 at 10:25pm #

    evie, evie, evie, how dare you pull the plug on all this fun!
    I honestly believe this is true. If the last two elections, right before our eyes, didn’t do it, then nothing will.
    This is all just therapy?
    And even if it isn’t, with the choices available, well, who cares?

  21. Hue Longer said on April 22nd, 2008 at 10:47pm #

    Too bad not many remember Huey Long, but so many worship FDR

  22. Jerry D. Rose said on April 23rd, 2008 at 12:49am #

    Sunil Sharma is right to respond to Dogwood that DV’s publication of Solomon’s piece does not imply DV endorsement of him, and is right that DV (along with Black Agenda Report) is one of the few beacons of critique of Obamania. As I said in my last post, I appreciate the opportunity to respond critically to Solomon’s ideas (which are those of E.R. Bills and way too many progressives.) I do take a bit of exception to Sharma’s “take a walk” admonition especially as it evokes the “move-on” mentality of which essentially told all those progressives who supported Kucnicich or Gravel to “get over it” and help the “progressive” MOG in his campaign for a more “viable” candidate.

  23. Eddie said on April 23rd, 2008 at 10:02am #

    Go Evie! Support. Dogwood, absolutely!

    Jerry D. Rose, did I catch you on NPR this morning? You sound just like their known-nothing guests. You just float whatever hunch you have even when you have nothing.

    Obama’s vote in Texas came from Republicans crossing over. Most likely true in Penn as well. So why don’t you stop repeating (in the case of Texas) disproven lies.

    For those who missed it, here (in Texas), it’s now a big issue because a significant number of Obama voters didn’t vote in any other race.

    Jerry, get your facts right.

    Someone said Solomon didn’t belong here. Amen to that.

  24. hp said on April 23rd, 2008 at 12:49pm #

    Sunil, doesn’t feel too good, does it? To be misconscrewed.
    I agree with you totally and suggest it’s not only appropriate but also your duty to run articles contrary to the overwhelming mindset. Otherwise, dissent would just be another word in a long list of accepted do’s and dont’s.

  25. Jerry D. Rose said on April 23rd, 2008 at 6:47pm #

    Eddie, I’ve never in my life been heard on NPR, so was definitely not one of their “known nothing guests” of whom I agree there are many.

    As for the straightness of my “facts,” if you’re referring to the “Limbaugh effect” in PA, I’m concerned myself about that. See the John Nichols post on Common Dreams this morning that there was no such effect, so I guess he agrees with you if I know just what you are saying. It is very true, I think, that many Repubs crossed over to vote for Obama in TX as well as PA, but I think for reasons other than a “dirty trick” effort to keep Clinton in the race, since their voting for Obama would tend to produce an earlier closure on the race. My sense is that, rather, the Obama crossers in both states really did like him and really might vote for him in November, since they are probably mostly white males many of whom. as Glen Ford noted, are closet racists eager to show their non-prejudice by voting for a “safe” black: one who doesn’t talk like Jeremiah Wright. The Operation Chaos launched by Limbaugh was for an entirely different purpose: to have Republicans vote for Clinton in order to prolong the democratic primary process to McCain’s advantage; these mischieve-makers would revert back to their Republican sympathies to vote for McCain in November. Nichols thinks that the “facts” don’t support this because, he says, exit polls showed that about as many Republican cross-overs voted for Obama as for Clinton. But let’s look at that and do a bit of quick math. There were “roughly” 2.3 million votes cast, and Clinton’s margin of victory was roughly 215,000. Most estimates I’ve seen indicate that about 1 in 10 voters were those who had re-registered as Democrats for the purpose of the election; making that maybe 230,000 cross-over votes. If even half these voted for Clinton, as exit polls seemed to indicate, she got 165,000 votes that she would not have gotten without the “Chaos” effect: not enough to eras her 215,000 plurality but easily enough to drastically alter the “double digit” victory which was being described on both sides as the benchmark level of her win she would need to be able to continue the race. So…while I’m perfectly winning to eat crow if the ideas I have “thrown around” are wrong, I’m not quite ready to sit down to that delicious meal; maybe tomorrow when we get some more facts. Meantime I’d like to see some data on registrations (which have already closed) in Indiana and North Carolina to see whether more Republican dirty election tricks are in the offing here. Let me say, before other posters jump on me as an Obama apologist, I’m an equal opportunity opponent of both these candidates; but I’m also an implacable detester of one party manipulating the results of the other party’s elections. I’m also willing to sustain the “Jeremiah” (pardon the expression) role I assumed with the first article, warning that a Limbaugh effect would be occurring in PA, of warning that we may get a similar effect in the May 6 primaries; unless the Repubs will have decided by then that it’s time to pull the plug on their pseudo-support for Clinton and let the now-bloodied Obama proceed to the nomination. Convoluted conspiracy? Well look at the history of Republican dirty tricks; like those phone calls in NH in 2002.

  26. Sunil Sharma said on April 23rd, 2008 at 10:42pm #

    Jerry Rose Wrote: “I do take a bit of exception to Sharma’s “take a walk” admonition especially as it evokes the “move-on” mentality of which essentially told all those progressives who supported Kucnicich or Gravel to “get over it” and help the “progressive” MOG in his campaign for a more “viable” candidate.”

    Thanks Jerry, but that’s not what I’m trying to evoke. Few things drive me up the wall more than Move On, PDA, et al. What I’m simply saying is: too often, people shoot from the hip, assume the worst of writers with a different view, and go rabid with their comments — “you must be a phony dissident/colluding Democrap/turncoat/add-your-favorite-ad-hominem if you post an article that says anything remotely positive about a Democrat, blah blah blah” — before thinking things through and writing something actually worth bothering to read. If you’re first instinct is to get in a tizzy over something you disagree with and go on a writing rampage, you really do need to calm down and unclench the sphincter before checking in with the keyboard. If this is how we engage others, then it’s no wonder why the Left is in such a shabby state and most people find progressives and their ideas irrelevant if not obnoxious.

    Substantive discourse is all but dead in America. All the caterwauling, simple-minded boors on conservative radio and TV that we frequently lambaste are equally met in all their glorious infantilism by far too many leftists, liberals, progressives, radicals, etc. It’s disheartening, really.

    On a personal note, I consider the Democrats and liberals to be a worse menace to this country and world than Republicans for many reasons I won’t go into here. Nevertheless, many leftists and progressives who’ve done a lot of important and admirable work, both in action and with the pen, will throw their support — to varying degrees — behind the Democratic presidential candidate, and this publication, despite the biases of the editors, will present the varying sides on the electoral question as best we can in the interest of — hopefully — stimulating a vigorous, substantive and mature discussion.

    Maybe I’m too much the optimist . . .

  27. Hue Longer said on April 24th, 2008 at 3:30am #

    I appreciate your work as an editor, Sunil…but I miss your no holds barred bardic brawling writing…any stories or pieces you plan on doing anytime soon? Does your jazz show it? I’d like to hear it

    If this sounds like ass kissing- then how about, what you got, punk?!

  28. Tom Payne said on April 24th, 2008 at 4:36am #

    My opinion of the Democrats is that they are the main obstacle blocking change. That’s their role. They do it in two main ways. One is that to maintain their monopoly position in the two-party system, they automatically view any movement or candidate to their left as a threat and attack them viciously. The other way they do it is by diverting a lot of energy and effort from the left into their campaigns that really don’t represent any of the views of the left.

    I’ve reached the opinion that the first goal of those of us to the left of the Democrats should be the destruction of the Democratic Party. We must recognize them as our enemy and treat the as such.

    The interesting thing to me is that the destruction of the Democratic Party seems to be something we could accomplish. We have the power to destroy and defeat their campaigns. We might not be able to win ourselves, but in many cases we could indeed be sure of causing Democratic defeats.

    The Democratic Party must win to survive. If the current party were to be placed in a position where their candidates found it impossible to win, the current structure of that party would collapse. This is because of two reasons. The politicians in that party crave power. They don’t seem to have any moral principles or issues that they support, they just want power and will say what they want to get it. If the party always lost, it would no longer be seen as a path to power for these politicians. Also, its funded by interests who want access to power. If the party always lost, its funding sources would dry up. Who wants to bribe the loser of an election?

    Thus, I feel we could indeed remove this obstacle to change by a campaign over several election cycles of deliberately trying to defeat as many Democrats as we can. The best part of this strategy is that at the same time we get to campaign and support candidates that really do support our views. Its win-win to us.

  29. Tom Payne said on April 24th, 2008 at 4:38am #

    PA was a ‘closed’ primary. Republicans could not easily cross over.

  30. Tom Payne said on April 24th, 2008 at 4:52am #

    Here’s the main reason I scrolled down to the comments, before I started reading other comments. 🙂

    I was completely laughing at the absurdity of this article when I first read it on other sites. You see, I actually like history and like to read. So, when I first started to see some of the Obama – FDR comparisions awhile back, I used Google to go find the text of some FDR speeches and started reading.

    On July 2, 1932, FDR made a speech to the Democratic National Convention that is very, very famous historically. For two reasons. One is that it was the first time a nominee gave an acceptance speech to a convention. They do it all the time nowadays, but this was the first time it occurred.

    The other was because that was the speech that proposed ‘The New Deal’. If you read the speech, and you know anything about history, it is all very familiar. He is laying out the details of what we know now of as the New Deal. He wasn’t running as a candidate of little difference from Pres. Hoover. FDR clearly spelled out the New Deal months before the election and ran on it.

    If you read this speech, its incredibly obvious that it is very different from a typical Obama speech. Obama chants ‘hope’ and ‘change’ all the time. Obama does the ‘I feel your pain’ bit that Bill Clinton did so well. But, what you’ll never see in an Obama speech is proposed solutions. He might well act like he understands the pain of small town people who’ve had their lives wrecked by Wall St investors who yanked all the jobs out of town and sent them to first Mexico and now China. But he never proposes solutions to the problem.

    Meanwhile, early in this FDR speech, you see this line … “And you can accept my pledge that I will leave no doubt or ambiguity on where I stand on any question of moment in this campaign.”

    And, later on, you find paragraphs like this “Rediscounting of farm mortgages under salutary restrictions must be expanded and should, in the future, be conditioned on the reduction of interest rates. Amortization payments, maturities should likewise in this crisis be extended before rediscount is permitted where the mortgagor is sorely pressed. That, my friends, is another example of practical, immediate relief: Action.”

    That’s not vague Obama-words. That’s a clear call for an action he promises to take if elected President. The speech is full of these.

    The key point is that FDR is clearly laying out in July before the 1932 election exactly what he intends to do if elected. He’s presenting the New Deal to the country then, and he campaigned on it.

    While I normally like Mr. Soloman, to me in this case he’s creating a fictional history. FDR was clearly campaigning on the New Deal. This is how he was able to accomplish the famous ‘Hundred Days’ when he took office. He’d clearly told the country what he intended to do, and the voters gave him a clear mandate to go do it.

  31. Jerry D. Rose said on April 24th, 2008 at 7:12am #

    Tom Payne, I loved your second post about the comparison of Obama and FDR. True he supposedly made the “you’ll have to make me” statement to his liberal supporters, but I think it was in the context of mobilizing them to “make” him do what he was already inclined and committed to do…when he was in office and had to face the full fury of “the other side,” which certainly did happen. The lack of any clear commitment of Obama is apparent to me as to you. Could his progressive supporters “make him” do what he had not already promised to do? That’s the conceit of Solomon and other progressives with their forlorn “hope” of getting Obama to “change.”

    On your first post, yes it’s true that PA had a “closed” primary, as do most states. But most states permit changes in registration until about 30 days before an election and this apparently happened in PA where 10% of Democratic primary voters were recently re-registered. I did the “math” on PA as a comment on today’s Common Dreams article by John Nichols in which he said that Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” did not have an effect on PA results. Au contrair, there were enough “Limbaugh” voters for Clinton in PA to take her from the 5% margin she might have gotten from “real” Democrats to the nearly 10% that was defined as the “big” win that she needed to continue. So Chaos did “work” in PA and may work in IN and NC, unless Republican operatives decide by then to let the Dems choose their own poison to run against McCain in November.

  32. Dan e said this yesterday, before he read Sunil's, er, "words"... said on April 24th, 2008 at 12:48pm #

    Hey (deleted),

    Nice Article! Now if I could only figger out how to be organized enough to write whole articles:)

    However, re normy: yes he does write very well about Media in general, pointing out what McChesney & everybody has been pointing out for some time now. However to catch suckers you need bait, and the Media writing is Solomon’s gimmick.

    Other fashionable Gimmicks nowadays, constructed out of real issues, but handled in a way that they become Red Herrings, are SOA, Timor, even Haiti is used that way by Vatican-loyal Misleaders such as Duane Campbell of DSA.

    Darfur we hear about, but who talks about what Templesman/Gertner & their Israeli pals are doing in PR of Congo & neighboring chunks of Colonia? Others talk about the whales, climate change, 911, peak oil, Universal Healthcare — but few want to talk about Power. Which is one reason I like Cynthia: she calls it “Power with a Capital P”.

    Within the present legal/constitutional setup, there are a limited number of ways the dis-empowered can gain access to a portion of real power:

    a group of workers can go on strike, withhold their labor.

    You can do CD or otherwise disrupt the process of Production/Distribution/Accumulation by putting your body or burning tires in the way.

    There’s the Embarrassment factor; sometimes elected officials will grant a concession, a minor reform just for the sake of Appearances, to preserve the legitimacy of the System? In other words bestow a Retail Reform in order to continue screwing you wholesale. This worked better while the USSR still existed, been largely ineffective since.

    Or you can seek power via the Electoral System. Which is an All Day Sucker, guaranteed to take Decades not Years to accomplish anything much. But any gains won via strikes/CD etc will be ephemeral, fleeting, revoked soons you look the other way.

    The electoral strategy envisioned by the Reconstruction Movement looks to use the election cycle & knowledge of that nut/bolt System to mobilize a Mass Movement based fundamentally on people who are not now in the habit of voting, period; most taking the position “Don’t Vote! It only encourages them!”.

    Those are the people we have to reach and to mobilize.

    The kind of people who now make up what is called “the voting public”, including the so-called “progressive voters”, bulk of the Greens, Nader supporters, 911 TRuth nuts, etc, far as I’m concerned aren’t worth the powder to blow themselves to Idaho. Check that, I meant Killeen TX:)

    Thanks for your letter, (deleted)! I’m flattered you find me worth arguing with! I’m kidding, you weren’t arguing, just Expanding the Dialogue:) Taking what 2nd City usta call the “yes, and…” adjustment:)

    But later for Solomon: if you want to read about the Media, you can read McChesney, or better yet Jeff’ (Blankfort)s list of which Jews control which Outlets…

    THanks again,

    PS, to put this in context you may want to chk out my yesterday comment on Dissident Voice article by one Norman Solomon…
    —– Original Message —–

  33. PatrickSMcNally said on April 24th, 2008 at 4:40pm #

    People have made a number of valid points about the pressures exerted by the labor movement in the 1930s and how that differs from today, but there’s another important difference which is often missed.

    Despite the Great Depression of the 1930s, capitalism really was a rapidly growing system at that time. The Depression was largely a consequence of an antiquated attachment to the gold standard. But real production still had enormous growth potential.

    The opposite is the case today. Our world is filled up with massive unused or underused productive capacity, what Karl Marx once called “overproduction.” In this context real profit in the classical sense has been harded to come by because it’s not just a question of sitting down to develop some new device for satisfying an unaddressed human need. We actually have so many tools for addressing human needs that they are not being put to use because no one sees a profit in it.

    It’s this kind of economy which creates an environment where business increasingly turns to Reaganite tax cuts, special Halliburton contracts through the back door, and the slashing of jobs and wages, in order to make up for the decline in the rate of profit. Such an environment is not going to allow for an FDR who enacts a few social reforms.

    The Rockefellers and other members of the upper class were once able to allow for taxation and public spending on general welfare because the profits of growing business were rising at such a pace that the extra costs of keeping workers content could be factored in as part of a well-run business. That does not apply today and there’s no point in using the Roosevelt era as a reference point today.

  34. Cawdor said on April 27th, 2008 at 8:03am #

    This election is more like 1968 then 1932. The ongoing war, the inevitable downturn in the economy which followed, the unpopular Republican candidate, the Washington insider vs. the you charismatic contender, the anti-war protestors ready to storm the DNC

    I see a repeat of that election then 32